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Hunger Strikers At Russian Tractor Plant 'Under Pressure'


RUBTSOVSK, Russia -- An NGO and a local lawmaker in Russia's Altai Krai say hunger strikers at a struggling tractor plant are coming under pressure, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The 70 workers at the plant, in Rubtsovsk, southwestern Siberia, began their protest on June 10 to demand overdue salaries totaling over $5.5 million be paid by the end of June.

The workers had to hold the hunger strike in the open air after the authorities began "sanitary cleaning works" in the building which they originally selected as the venue for their protest.

Altai Krai parliament deputy Aleksei Kushnarev told RFE/RL that police then did not allow the hunger strikers to set up a tent.

He also said that on the evening of June 10, a bus brought dozens of young men to the spot where the hunger strike is taking place.

He said the young men started breaking empty bottles and shouting loudly. Police then tried to put the hunger strikers on the same bus to take them to the police station, Kushnarev said.

Today, all the hunger strikers received subpoenas summoning them to testify as witnesses to "hooliganism."

Andrei Shchukin, the chairman of the Independent Public Chamber, a local nongovernmental organization, has sent an open letter to regional prosecutor Yakov Khoroshev demanding an explanation for the incidents.

On June 3, the plant's owner, RATM Industrial Group, announced that all 744 employees at the plant, including the director, will be laid off by September.
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